Preying on the Poor

By: Lekpele M. Nyamalon

Monrovia- Liberian Electorates represent one of the most exploited groups of people, yet remain the most sought after during elections. The recent certification of the All Liberian Party (ALP) brings to eighteen (18) the total number of political parties in Liberia.
By 2017, that number is expected to swell. All Political machineries ride on the back of the poor to power. The Poor, as surrogates of power, oblivion to their manipulation, remain the victims in the game of power play.
According to the National Elections Commission, There were 30 (thirty) registered political parties in Liberia as of 2011. A total of 25 political entities contested the October 11, 2005 elections. This includes two political alliances and one coalition – Alliance for Peace and Democracy (APD), United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Coalition for Transformation of Liberia (COTOL) – and one independent candidate.
According to a report from allafrica.com in February of 2014, the National Elections Commission, (NEC), took 20 political parties to court for revocation of registration and accreditation. According to the Petition, the political parties violated Articles 83(d) and 79 (c)(i) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia as well as Part II Chapter IV of the Guidelines Relating to the Registration of Political Parties and Independent Candidates. Article 83(d) of the Constitution of Liberia makes it mandatory that every political party in Liberia shall on September 1, of each year, publish and submit to the NEC detailed statements of assets and liabilities. These shall include the enumeration of sources of funds and other assets, plus list of expenditure while Article 79(c)(i) in relevant part, mandates that no association shall function as a political party, unless the headquarters of the association is located in the Republic’s Capital. This means that most Political Parties are handbag machineries that are temporarily revived during elections for the purpose of making compromises and seeking jobs in return of pronouncement of support to candidates/parties.
According to the World Bank estimate, Liberia remains poor with more than 80% of its population living below the poverty line. A continuous recycling of political figures from previous regimes, metamorphosed as political saints come by and ride the wings of the poor to power, fame and prominence. Until the average electorate understands the game of systematic subjugation to poverty and ignorance, the vicious cycle of poverty and perpetual manipulation would remain.
In recent electoral history in Liberia, the landscape is highly fluid, void of issues and policies. It’s rather a gamble of actors fighting for a piece of the pie. It mimics a football match with substitute players reading the game better from the sidelines but becoming blind when put on the pitch. Some loud Members of opposition political parties have accepted political positions and remain perpetually silent on issues they once roared about. Sadly and most disgustingly is that some members of Civil Society and the media have used their various platforms to gain fame and prominence and joined the bandwagon of politicians, acting as proxies in media campaigns. The losers are the electorates-the poor.
After the 2011 elections in Liberia, key media personalities got appointed to senior government positions, thereby validating deeply held speculations of their roles in campaign efforts of Political Parties. That was a morality gap in Institutions that were supposedly neutral in the political sphere.
According to a recent FrontPage Africa report in Liberia, members of the legislature have reportedly crafted a pension bill that keeps them perpetually living off the state for the remainder of their lives.
There are persistent reports of elected members of the legislature allotting to themselves huge salaries and benefits without advancing the basic interests of their constituencies. This has led to every single member of the Senate {safe Nimba & Bong} during the midterm senatorial elections voted out of office for either failing to live up to promises made during elections or poor representation. There is a recent uproar within the senate, because a member of that body is opting for a reduction in salaries and allowances. Every other member, including the leadership of the senate has differed with him for the stance.
If the path to public service is not to serve, but to live off the state, riding on the back of the poor, then politics is sickening. According to the Front Page Africa, ‘An ambitious, costly but controversial pension bill aiming to provide whopping pension and retirement benefits for the President, Vice President, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore and members of the Liberian Senate as well as elected members of the chambers of the national legislature, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the Subordinate Courts of Liberia, may not get the backing of the President’ The Front Page Africa report continues…Despite high earning in an underdeveloped country by the lawmakers, they are still pushing for the state to continue to provide for them during their entire lives by passing the pension bill which will obligate the country to pay them during their entire lives, even transferring to their spouses.
Members of the Liberian media, Civil Society and those of the enlightened citizenry should use their platforms to sensitize and educate voters that short-term relief brought to them in exchange for votes are not sustainable. They should begin to ask those asking for their votes the real hard questions on issues of policy, methodologies for achieving promises made during elections, etc. The Civil society and the Media should ensure that Politicians are constantly checked to ensure that they don’t get away with defrauding voters. In this game of Elections, the poor gave their backs for politicians to ride and stare at the circus with folded hands, left in destitute for the next elections when they are useful.

Lekpele M. Nyamalon is a Liberian writer and poet and can be reached at nyamalon@yahoo.com

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